Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2019-21 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Unique Identifying Number – Every written question in the House of Commons has a UIN per Parliament. In the House of Lords each written questions has a UIN per parliamentary session.
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Q
(Eastbourne)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 13 May 2020
Northern Ireland Office
Health Services: Northern Ireland
Commons
What support his Department is providing to the health service in Northern Ireland during the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Mr Robin Walker
Answered on: 13 May 2020

The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive are communicating at all levels, with the NI Health Minister regularly attending the Government’s health meetings. So far £1.2bn has been made available to the Executive to support the response to Covid-19.

We will continue to support the Health Service in Northern Ireland in any way possible, such as the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing and PPE supply. As part of this, we have rolled out three test facilities in Northern Ireland - Belfast, Londonderry, and Craigavon - for the testing of frontline and key workers.

Q
Asked by Ian Paisley
(North Antrim)
Asked on: 27 April 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: Vaccination
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking with UK companies to support the development of a vaccine for covid-19.
A
Answered by: Jo Churchill
Answered on: 12 May 2020

On 17 April 2020 the Government announced a new Vaccines Taskforce (VTF) to drive forward the rapid development and production of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The VTF is supporting efforts to rapidly develop a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible by providing industry and research institutions with the resources and support they need. This includes reviewing regulations and scaling up manufacturing, so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be produced quickly and in mass quantities.

The taskforce is also working closely with the Bioindustry Association which has set up an industry-led group, to accelerate vaccine development and manufacturing.

Asked on: 28 April 2020
Department for International Development
Africa: Food Supply
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security in Africa.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 12 May 2020

COVID-19 is exacerbating an already negative trend, with a high and increasing baseline of chronic food insecurity being further driven by drought, conflict, and locusts and other shocks. Immediate harvest prospects are favourable in some countries and for some commodities, but distribution is a challenge in many vulnerable areas, even at the best of times. COVID-19 related disruptions to supply chains threaten price rises at the same time as secondary impacts are dramatically reducing the purchasing power of the poor and of farmers who cannot afford inputs for the next planting season. To tackle the factors driving COVID-19 induced food insecurity, the UK is repurposing programmes in agriculture, social protection and humanitarian assistance, for example, our bilateral Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness and multilateral Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. In all of these we continue to put the poorest and most marginalised at the heart of our programmes to address the underlying causes of chronic hunger.

Asked on: 29 April 2020
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Yemen: Baha'i Faith
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations, if any, they have made to President Mahdi al Mashat that the pardon for Hamed bin Haydara and five other Yemeni Baha'i, and their release from jail, be expedited.
A
Answered on: 12 May 2020

We are monitoring the case of Hamed bin Haydara closely. On 25 March the Houthis announced that they would release Mr Haydara and his fellow wrongfully detained Baha'i, but we have seen no further action since then. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa made public our concerns on 22 April, urging the Houthis to release all political prisoners without delay. We strongly condemn the death sentence and the continued persecution of the Baha'i in Yemen for their religious beliefs. We meet often with the Baha'i representatives in London who keep us updated on the situation.

Q
Asked by Kate Osamor
(Edmonton)
Asked on: 01 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Milk: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the milk supply chain is not disrupted during the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Victoria Prentis
Answered on: 12 May 2020

Defra is working closely with the dairy industry to manage the impact of COVID-19. Demand for milk and some dairy products has increased in supermarkets and the vast majority of Britain’s dairy farmers continue to supply their contracts at the usual price. However, between 5 and 10 per cent of total milk production goes to the service trade, and these farmers have been impacted by the significantly reduced demand.

At the outset of the pandemic, the Government announced a number of emergency measures to support farmers, processors, and retailers. These include designating the food sector as critical to the response, with those working in the production, processing, sale, distribution or delivery of food categorised as “key workers” and granting derogations on drivers’ hours limitations.

In addition, to support milk producers, the Government announced on 17 April a temporary easing of some elements of competition law to make it easier for the dairy industry to come together to maximise production, processing and storage efficiency and ensure as much product as possible can be processed into high quality dairy products. This approach will allow the market for milk to adjust to the change in demand for milk while allowing production to be restored when shops, restaurants and pubs are able to open again. Exempted activities have been developed in conjunction with the dairy industry.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) together with Dairy UK are launching a new £1 million campaign to drive consumption of milk and other dairy products. Running over 12 weeks, the campaign will highlight the role that milk and other dairy products play in supporting moments of personal connection during times of crisis. Defra and the devolved administrations are jointly contributing towards the financing of this campaign.

The dairy industry can access various Government backed loan schemes. The COVID-19 Business Interruption Loans scheme is available to farmers, milk buyers and milk processors. In addition, the new Bounce Back Loan scheme, which will apply to businesses including those operating in agriculture, will ensure that the smallest businesses can access up to £50,000 loans.

In recognition of the unprecedented challenges facing this sector, on 6 May 2020, Defra announced a new fund to help support those dairy farmers who have seen decreased demand due to the loss of the food service sector. The new fund will provide support for those most in need. Eligible dairy farmers in England will be entitled to up to £10,000 each, to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May to ensure they can continue to operate and sustain production capacity without impacts on animal welfare.

Public intervention for skimmed milk powder and butter continues to be available. Industry can sell skimmed milk powder and butter into public intervention when the price they would receive on the open market falls below the intervention price. This provides a floor price for dairy products. From 7 May, UK dairy processors are also eligible to apply for EU funded private storage aid in respect of skimmed milk powder, butter and cheese.

Q
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Asked on: 01 May 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Food: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether the conditions required to ease the lockdown include plans to (a) rebuild public confidence in the safety of the restaurant sector and (b) promote awareness that food handlers are key workers that are eligible for covid-19 testing.
A
Answered by: Victoria Prentis
Answered on: 12 May 2020

Defra, alongside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Devolved Administrations, is working closely with representatives from the food and beverage hospitality sector to support their planning towards reopening and their continued operations. This includes identifying what ongoing support businesses may need from the Government as they implement the measures required to protect workers and customers as restrictions are eased.

It is possible for many businesses to reopen safely, in a cautious way, and we welcome the reopening of food-to-go businesses, predominantly for drive thru, in line with

social distancing measures. Providing clear advice and guidance will be important to restoring confidence in restaurants, takeaways and other hospitality businesses, not only for customers but for workers too. This will be a key part of Government planning as we move towards the easing of restrictions.

This includes measures such as the Government expanding the eligibility for testing to all essential workers with symptoms of coronavirus, including those working in the food and drink industry. As a result of rapidly increasing testing capacity, we have been able to implement this and we have published advice including on how to arrange tests.

Q
(Tottenham)
Asked on: 04 May 2020
Ministry of Justice
Prisoners' Release: Homelessness
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisoners have been released because they have come to the end of their sentence and were known to be going to no fixed abode in (a) February, (b) March and (c) April 2020.
A
Answered by: Lucy Frazer
Answered on: 12 May 2020

The data on the number of prisoners released without a fixed address in February and March is due to be published on gov.uk on 30 July as part of the quarterly community performance statistics. The data for April 2020 is not yet available but is due for publication in July 2021.

It is vital that everyone leaving prison has somewhere safe and secure to live, as a platform to access the services and support needed to stop offending especially at this difficult time. It is our intention to make sure that no prisoner will be released without housing and health support being in place and we have set up seven Homelessness Prevention Taskforces to provide accommodation support for those eligible for early release and those in the community experiencing accommodation difficulties. We are also working in collaboration with several public, private and voluntary sector providers to secure a range of accommodation options.

Q
(York Central)
Asked on: 05 May 2020
Department for International Development
Developing Countries: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what discussions she has had with her (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) international partners on the UK's response to covid-19 in developing countries.
A
Answered by: Wendy Morton
Answered on: 12 May 2020

The Secretary of State regularly engages with Cabinet colleagues on a wide range of matters including COVID-19 and its impact on developing countries.

The UK is taking decisive and co-ordinated action to support the global response to COVID-19, working with our international partners. The UK is also using its membership of the G7 and G20 to urge collective action and help drive a timely and effective international response. We are working closely with our G7 partners, including significant donors who are outside this group, for example the Netherlands, Norway and Australia, to agree priorities for immediate response to help countries deal with the immediate health and humanitarian impacts of the virus.

Q
Asked by Anna McMorrin
(Cardiff North)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 05 May 2020
Department for International Development
Middle East: Nutrition
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what assessment she has made of the extent to which her Department’s funding for nutrition programmes in low-income and fragile states throughout the Middle East is meeting demand for those programmes.
A
Answered by: James Cleverly
Answered on: 12 May 2020

Across the Middle East, malnutrition rates, as well as food insecurity levels, are very concerning, particularly in Yemen and Syria where rates are among the highest in the world.

In Yemen, last financial year (19/20), UK support helped UNICEF screen over 400,000 children for severe acute malnutrition and enabled 45,000 children to be enrolled in nutrition programmes after screening. The UK is the second-largest donor to the malnutrition response in Yemen and we continue to encourage other donors to provide significant funding to Yemen, including for the malnutrition response.

In Syria, last financial year (19/20), the UK reached over 170,000 children under five, or pregnant or new mothers, with nutrition interventions. The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to the Syria Crisis since it began in 2011. We are at the forefront of the humanitarian response, driving other donors to help those acutely in need, including on key issues such as malnutrition.

Q
Asked by Scott Mann
(North Cornwall)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 12 May 2020
Department for International Trade
Trade: Coronavirus
Commons
What steps her Department is taking to help ensure the recovery of international trade after the covid-19 pandemic.
A
Answered by: Mr Ranil Jayawardena
Answered on: 12 May 2020

Restoring an open trading system is vital for global recovery post-COVID. We will continue to champion free and fair trade, and we will support business recovery by opening up markets through free trade agreements, our new Export Strategy, and driving investment across all parts of the United Kingdom. Our ambitious free trade agreement with the US aims to reduce tariffs for key exports such as dairy. As Cornwall and the South West account for two-thirds of all our dairy exports to the US, this will be particularly important for local businesses in my Hon. Friend’s constituency and the surrounding areas, such as Davidstow creamery.

Q
(Swansea West)
Asked on: 20 April 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Ventilators
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what procedures his Department is using with (a) skilled academics and (b) engineers to select innovative ventilator designs during the covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Edward Argar
Answered on: 11 May 2020

The ventilator challenge work is being undertaken and managed by the Cabinet Office.

The Prime Minister’s call to manufacturers on 16 March had an overwhelming response, with over 5,000 United Kingdom and international businesses offering to help provide services, including designing and building new devices, manufacturing components or transporting them to National Health Service hospitals.

Following this, the Government has partnered a number of the UK’s leading technology and engineering firms with smaller manufacturers to rapidly build existing, modified or newly designed ventilators at speed, with seven priority projects underway.

Officials are currently working with expert clinicians and health regulators to test all new machine designs, as patient safety is of paramount importance. Any new orders are all dependent on machines passing regulatory tests, but the Government, manufacturers and regulators are working at pace to drive this work forward.

Q
Asked by Martyn Day
(Linlithgow and East Falkirk)
Asked on: 28 April 2020
Department for Transport
Driving under Influence: Training
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions he has had with representatives of the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training on ensuring that people are able to undertake drink drive rehabilitation training during the covid-19 lockdown.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 11 May 2020

In line with the Government’s guidance on social distancing, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has advised drink drive rehabilitation (DDR) course providers not to start any new classroom-based rehabilitation courses, until further notice. Offenders who have already taken the first, or first and second day of a three-day DDR course, can complete their course remotely on a suitable digital platform. The DVSA has been in discussions with representatives of the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training on this matter.

Q
(Cardiff South and Penarth)
Asked on: 29 April 2020
Home Office
Immigration Controls: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether she registered a written or other objection to the decision by Public Health England to rescind the advice entitled COVID-19: specified countries and areas with implications for returning travellers or visitors arriving in the UK in the last 14 days, available on gov.uk until 13 March 2020.
A
Answered by: Chris Philp
Answered on: 11 May 2020

Our approach to tackling coronavirus has been driven by the latest scientific and medical advice provided by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Public Health England.

All decisions relating to international travel to the UK or on arrival at ports/airports have been made by Ministers across Government.

Q
(Brighton, Kemptown)
Asked on: 29 April 2020
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agriculture: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has to ensure the maintenance of labour (a) supply and (b) standards in the farming industry during covid-19 outbreak.
A
Answered by: Victoria Prentis
Answered on: 11 May 2020

(Part A)

The ongoing impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak have meant that there will be a shortfall in the numbers of workers who usually travel to the UK from Europe to work during the harvest season, with the demand for workers peaking from late May through the summer.

Farming leaders have already kick-started a recruitment drive for work on farms, with thousands of British people already expressing an interest in picking up seasonal agricultural work over the coming weeks and months. With many British workers furloughed from their jobs, and students having to put their summer plans on hold, the Government is supporting industry efforts to help farmers bring in this year’s harvest, working to build on these numbers.

The majority of roles for the early part of the harvest season have already been filled. We are closely monitoring the situation and we will shortly be launching a public- facing campaign to highlight the roles available from late May onwards and to encourage people to apply. The Government has confirmed that those who have been furloughed from their jobs due to coronavirus, and who are contractually allowed to work for another employer, can take on this seasonal work.

A new government-industry digital hub for seasonal work information and job opportunities has been launched to provide guidance on getting into farm work and links to the available jobs and recruiters. The website can be found at pickforbritain.org.uk and will be updated regularly over the coming weeks to help match jobs to workers as the demand grows.

(Part B)

The UK is proud of its world-leading standards of food safety, environmental protection and animal health and welfare. We will not compromise our standards nor put the UK’s biosecurity at risk whatever the circumstances.

Q
(Lichfield)
Asked on: 01 May 2020
Department for Transport
Driving: Licensing
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when driving licenses depicting the flag of the European Union will cease to be issued.
A
Answered by: Rachel Maclean
Answered on: 11 May 2020

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January and is now in a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which time existing arrangements remain unchanged. This means that UK driving licences will continue to include the EU flag for the duration of the transition period.

Q
Asked by Ruth Jones
(Newport West)
Asked on: 01 May 2020
Ministry of Justice
Prison Sentences
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of sentences of less than six months in reducing reoffending rates.
A
Answered by: Chris Philp
Answered on: 11 May 2020

We are clear that sentencing must match the severity of a crime, and public protection is our priority.

The latest proven reoffending rate for adult offenders released from sentences of six months or less in the quarter January to March 2018 was almost two thirds (64.8%).

If we are to break the cycle of reoffending, solutions will often lie in community sentences, including those which address offenders’ behaviour, answer their mental health and alcohol or drug misuse needs, or provide reparation for the benefit of the wider community. However, sentencers should continue to have the option of imposing a short custodial sentence, where appropriate.

In the Queen’s speech in December, the Government announced plans to introduce new sentencing laws. Ahead of any legislation, we intend to canvass proposals in a White Paper. This will contain proposals for community penalties that offer an appropriate level of punishment, while tackling the underlying drivers of re-offending.

Q
(North Durham)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 04 May 2020
Ministry of Defence
Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what savings measures his Department has undertaken to reduce the complete costs of the UK's F-35b fleet from £9.134 billion to £8.538 billion.
A
Answered by: Jeremy Quin
Answered on: 11 May 2020

The reduction in cost has resulted from measures taken throughout the programme to reduce aircraft procurement and flying costs. The UK continues to work closely with our partner nations, as part of the US-led F-35 global programme, to identify efficiencies and drive down programme costs.

Q
Asked by Afzal Khan
(Manchester, Gorton)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 04 May 2020
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Buildings: Carbon Emissions
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps the Government is taking to ensure that carbon inefficient buildings are retrofitted.
A
Answered by: Kwasi Kwarteng
Answered on: 11 May 2020

Government has a number of policies and proposals to improve the energy performance of buildings, for example:

  • Our current Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme and its successor will drive £6bn of additional investment to support energy improvements in low-income, vulnerable and fuel poor households between 2018 and 2028.

  • The Private Rented Sector Minimum standard regulations introduced on 1 April 2018 will improve the energy performance of rented properties. The regulations require landlords of domestic and non-domestic rental properties to bring their properties to EPC Band E or above. We recently consulted on raising the minimum energy standards for non-domestic privately rented properties to meet a preferred target of EPC B by 2030, and plan to publish the Government Response later this year. We will consult on tightening the minimum energy standards for domestic privately rented properties in due course.

  • We have committed to further consultations on introducing mandatory in-use energy performance ratings for non-domestic buildings; and on requirements for mortgage lenders to help households improve the energy efficiency of the homes they lend to.

  • Public sector organisations can access the funding for decarbonisation projects, including certain retrofits through the Public Sector Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme. The capital pot for England stands at £312m as of the end of 2019/20 and is planned to increase to a total of £385 million by 2020/21.
Q
Asked by Chris Elmore
(Ogmore)
Asked on: 04 May 2020
Home Office
Immigration Controls: Coronavirus
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of precautionary plans in place at UK borders for people travelling into the UK during the covid-19 pandemic.
A
Answered by: Chris Philp
Answered on: 11 May 2020

Our approach to tackling coronavirus has been driven by the latest scientific and medical advice provided by SAGE and Public Health England. In line with that advice, to date, no changes have been required at the UK border.

Any decision to implement additional restrictions on international travel to the UK or on arrival at ports/airports will be made by Ministers.

We are continuously reviewing the most appropriate response at the UK border to the changing situation in relation to CV-19, both in the UK and across the international community.

Q
Asked by Daisy Cooper
(St Albans)
Asked on: 20 April 2020
Department of Health and Social Care
Coronavirus: Screening
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reasons the drive through testing facility for NHS workers who are based in Hertfordshire is located at Stansted Airport.
A
Answered by: Ms Nadine Dorries
Answered on: 07 May 2020

The broad geographical locations for all sites were selected with the aim of ensuring that as many people as possible live within 45 minutes of a centre by road. The Government aims to be responsive to local need and, where possible, consult with local stakeholders and partners before making decisions.

In determining the specific site where a centre is located, the Government typically works with a number of potential site owners to identify and narrow down sites. The primary concern when considering a site is safety. A number of factors influence that decision – including the size and layout of the site, the period for which it is available, and nearby road links.

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